A Week In Paradise: Touring Costa Rica by van.

by Satva Leung

Monday, September 11

Donger picked me up the morning after the ASR Trade Show in San Diego and gave me a ride to the airport, where I met Jesse Paez, Justin Strubing, Kerry Getz, Colin Kennedy, photographer Chris Ortiz, and Ezekiel Team Manager Joe Piccolo. The only thing I knew about our trip was that we were going to Costa Rica thanks to Ezekiel Clothing, and that the word “party” was mentioned on all seven days of our itinerary!

We had a slight layover in Dallas, and then it was off to Costa Rica. I had watched the Weather Channel the night before leaving, which said there might be a hurricane heading toward Costa Rica¿a fact that definitely didn’t help my state of mind while getting on the plane. The flight went fine, until we were about an hour away from San Jose (Costa Rica’s capital) and lightning almost struck our plane. All I could think about was a huge hurricane swallowing us up, but luck was on our side, and we landed safely.

We got through customs fine and found our tour guide Ernesto, who mentioned getting some drinks at a “sports bar.” It turned out that this bar was a big meeting spot for kids who drag-race their cars on the strip. In the bar was a big-screen television showing rally racing, but if you went outside you could see it live, Costa Rican style.

We had some serious close-calls on the strip that night. At one point, two cars were side by side racing around a corner when another car suddenly appeared, coming toward them head-on. The two racers separated, just missing the oncoming car.

Occasionally, police cars would fly in from out of nowhere and chase the street bandits, but they would just floor it and ditch the cops. We were kind of tripping, like, “Damn, this place is sketchy,” but Kerry was psyched¿he wanted to ship his ride in and show these guys what’s up.

Tuesday, September 12

Costa Rica has two seasons¿one is dry, the other’s wet. Unfortunately, we traveled there during the rainy season¿July to December. During the four days we stayed in San José, the rain generally rolled in around 1:00 or 2:00 p.m. and lasted until the evening. So if you want to skate during the rainy season, you either have to get up early or skate at night.

We got up pretty early on Tuesday morning, and it was beautiful outside. I even heard monkeys outside at the crack of dawn. It was our first day in Costa Rica, and everyone seemed pretty stoked. The first spot we went to is your basic ledge-and-stair spot¿every city or town has the local skate spot where everyone meets up.

We skated there until the two o’clock rain spell hit. Huge raindrops fell from the sky, so we asked Simone and Randal (some local rippers) about indoor spots in the area, and it turned out they run an indoor skatepark in San José called Chepesent. They took us to their park, located at the end of a flooded alley; a clogged sewer drain had caused the water level to climb so high, it looked like a small river. Some poor guy with no shoes was knee-deep in dirty alley water and the pouring rain, trying to unclog the drain with a little twig.

We drove through the small river to the other end of the alley and eventually got inside the park, where they had a nice little setup of banks, rails, boxes, and a couple quarterpipes. We definitely gave props to those guys for hooking this park up, which happens to be the only indoor skatepark in San José. They pay the rent out of their own pockets so the local kids have a place to skate.

After the session at Chepesent, we headed back to the hotel to clean up and get some grub, and on our way we saw someone get hit by a car. People drive crazy in Costa Rica.

Gui is the name of the amazing restaurant we ate at that night¿everything was super fresh. Chris and Colin got photos and footy of the chefs preparing everything. After dinner, we had a few drinks at a cool surf/skate bar called Tavarua.

Wednesday, Septemr 13

On Wednesday morning we stopped by the hardware store to get some wood for the demo. While we waited in the van in front of the store, soldiers equipped with sawed-off double-barrel shotguns glared at us. Ortiz didn’t seem to care and commenced to lurk around the front of the store. There’s a lot of crime in San Jose, so it’s not uncommon to see guards with rifles in front of stores.

The first spot we hit was called Heredia, just outside of San José¿a cool spot with some wheelchair-ramp banks with rails on the side. Disappointingly, we got kicked out within ten minutes. Usually Ernesto can smooth talk or bribe guards into letting us skate, but they wouldn’t have it.

After Heredia, we stopped by a good-size rail, where ‘Nesto’s smooth-talking paid off and Jesse Paez broke off a nice lipslide. The next spot is called Peace Park¿it has several small gaps, and Justin and Kerry demolished the flat rail there. We were having fun, but it started raining at 2:00 on the dot.

Later on that day, we were scheduled to do an autograph-signing at Tico Skate Shop. When we rolled up, it was chaos. Colgate was one of the sponsors of the trip, so they had a guy who shot Polaroids of us posing with each of the 200 kids who’d lined up for their free photo. They also hire beautiful women to hang out at their sponsored events in extremely tight Colgate shirts¿we were all pretty bummed.

After the autograph session, ‘Nesto brought us to a nice Italian restaurant. I was hesitant about eating Italian food in Costa Rica, but it turned out to be amazing. The big demo was the following day, so we decided to head back to the hotel and rest.

Thursday, September 14

On Thursday, we hit this insane eight-foot cement halfpipe in the middle of some field. Simone described the area as the Queens of Costa Rica. Nonetheless, Kerry was blasting crazy double grabs, Strubing somehow managed to tailslide the beastly lip, and Paez was throwing down huge ollies to fakie. After about half an hour, a group of about 40 kids from the nearby school had gathered and were stoked to see people skating.

Eventually, dark clouds started to roll in, so we decided to try to hit a few more spots before the showers started. As we were leaving, the cops rolled up and lit a fire under the halfpipe, which we found out was their method of getting rid of the bums who live underneath the ramp.

Rain began to fall, and because we had the demo scheduled for later on that night, we went back to the hotel to rest up.

The demo that night was insane, with approximately 3,000 crazy kids in this huge arena. When you’d land a trick, the whole stadium would go nuts. At the end of the demo, it turned into a small riot. All the kids rushed down to the floor and were literally attacking us for free stuff.

“Let me have your shirt! Give me your board! Can I have your pants!” is all you could hear.

We gave away as much as we could, but they still weren’t happy. The crowd had us cornered, and we were trying to figure out how the hell we were going to get out of the chaos. Ernesto told the guards to form a human barricade around us and escort us out. When we finally got to the van, all the kids started rushing out of the stadium toward us. “Floor it!” we yelled.

There were kids running after us, smacking the windows trying to break in. After escaping, halfway down the road we all realized we forgot something … or more precisely, someone. “Ortiz!” everyone yelled. We couldn’t drive back into the chaos, so we hid out in a back alley while ‘Nesto went to retrieve Chris.

That night we ended up at Infinito¿a crazy discoteca club where beers cost $2.00. We couldn’t complain … until the next morning.

Friday, September 15Costa Rican Independence Day

On Friday we were finally ready to travel east toward the Caribbean side of the country. We couldn’t wait to get to the beach, but there was one more demo planned in Guápiles before heading out.

The ride to Guápiles was amazing. We drove through the Zurqui Jungle, where the road cuts through a lush, green, tropical rain forest filled with three-toed sloths and other jungle creatures. When we rolled into Guápiles, we found a carnival going on¿it was Independence Day, so the festivities were in full swing.

Our hotel was nice¿clean rooms, a cool cabaña-style dining area, and an Olympic-size pool with a twenty-foot-tall slide. We especially liked the slide, except it would give you an occasional hipper as it whipped you around a corner before launching you into the pool.

To stay in a place like this in the States would probably run you between 150 and 200 dollars a night, but our rooms were 30 bucks.

Later on that night, we hit up the carnival. It was fun¿lots of greasy food, borrachos trying their luck with the mechanical bull, and tons of people celebrating the holiday. I accidentally convinced Justin to eat some meat that night¿it was in something called a papusa. Sorry, Strubs.

Saturday, September 16

Guápiles is a semi-small town with little concrete, which meant not too many skate spots. With nothing to skate, we were forced to swim and lounge around the pool, dammit! Evening rolled around, and it was time to head over to the demo, which was, conveniently, across the street from our hotel.

Unfortunately, during our day’s relaxation, someone managed to steal my board out of the van, so I had to skate on someone else’s board during the demo. The crowd was definitely amped on all the skating, and the usual rioting occurred toward the end of the demo, but this time we had a secret exit to escape through, which was nice.

After the demo, we went back to the carnival and partied it up with the locs. Colin had a little accident that night, but we won’t talk about that.

Sunday, September 17

Puerto Viejo, located on the Caribbean side, was our destination on Sunday. On our way, we stopped by Ernesto’s parents’ place just outside of Limón. They treated us to a nice lunch of homemade Costa Rican food at their house, which is near the water. It used to be closer to the ocean, but they had a big earthquake in 1991 that caused a 30-foot landmass to rise out of the Caribbean. So now instead of being twenty feet from the beach, they’re 50. You can’t mess with good old Mother Nature.

After lunch, we stopped in Limón and did a little patineta (or “skating”). I still didn’t have a board, so Colin let me borrow his until the cops almost confiscated it. I had some bad luck with boards that weekend.

We checked into our bungalow-style hostel that night. It was cool except for the fact that there was no hot water, but since the temperature hovers around 80 degrees, thick with humidity, it wasn’t that bad.

That night, we checked out the local discoteca, located about ten yards from the beautiful Caribbean water. We got our groove on and met some Israeli people from Tel Aviv.

Monday, September 18

We finally got to go to the beach. This is what we’d been waiting for the whole time¿too bad it was our last full day in the lovely country. Puerto Viejo is a serious paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, monkeys frolicking in the trees, and ridiculous weather. We all had a lot of fun on the beach that day, surfing and playing with sand crabs and banana leaves¿a true day in paradise.

All good things eventually come to an end sometime, and we had to catch our flight the next morning out of San José, so it was time to head back.

We had an amazing trip. If you get a chance go on a vacation in Costa Rica, do it¿it’s worth the experience and the cost.

We definitely want to thank Ernesto from La Isla Distribution for hooking everything up and baby-sitting us for a week. Also, thanks to all the sponsors that made the trip happen: Ezekiel Clothing; La Isla Distribution; Colgate (and all the beautiful Colgate Girls); ing out.

The ride to Guápiles was amazing. We drove through the Zurqui Jungle, where the road cuts through a lush, green, tropical rain forest filled with three-toed sloths and other jungle creatures. When we rolled into Guápiles, we found a carnival going on¿it was Independence Day, so the festivities were in full swing.

Our hotel was nice¿clean rooms, a cool cabaña-style dining area, and an Olympic-size pool with a twenty-foot-tall slide. We especially liked the slide, except it would give you an occasional hipper as it whipped you around a corner before launching you into the pool.

To stay in a place like this in the States would probably run you between 150 and 200 dollars a night, but our rooms were 30 bucks.

Later on that night, we hit up the carnival. It was fun¿lots of greasy food, borrachos trying their luck with the mechanical bull, and tons of people celebrating the holiday. I accidentally convinced Justin to eat some meat that night¿it was in something called a papusa. Sorry, Strubs.

Saturday, September 16

Guápiles is a semi-small town with little concrete, which meant not too many skate spots. With nothing to skate, we were forced to swim and lounge around the pool, dammit! Evening rolled around, and it was time to head over to the demo, which was, conveniently, across the street from our hotel.

Unfortunately, during our day’s relaxation, someone managed to steal my board out of the van, so I had to skate on someone else’s board during the demo. The crowd was definitely amped on all the skating, and the usual rioting occurred toward the end of the demo, but this time we had a secret exit to escape through, which was nice.

After the demo, we went back to the carnival and partied it up with the locs. Colin had a little accident that night, but we won’t talk about that.

Sunday, September 17

Puerto Viejo, located on the Caribbean side, was our destination on Sunday. On our way, we stopped by Ernesto’s parents’ place just outside of Limón. They treated us to a nice lunch of homemade Costa Rican food at their house, which is near the water. It used to be closer to the ocean, but they had a big earthquake in 1991 that caused a 30-foot landmass to rise out of the Caribbean. So now instead of being twenty feet from the beach, they’re 50. You can’t mess with good old Mother Nature.

After lunch, we stopped in Limón and did a little patineta (or “skating”). I still didn’t have a board, so Colin let me borrow his until the cops almost confiscated it. I had some bad luck with boards that weekend.

We checked into our bungalow-style hostel that night. It was cool except for the fact that there was no hot water, but since the temperature hovers around 80 degrees, thick with humidity, it wasn’t that bad.

That night, we checked out the local discoteca, located about ten yards from the beautiful Caribbean water. We got our groove on and met some Israeli people from Tel Aviv.

Monday, September 18

We finally got to go to the beach. This is what we’d been waiting for the whole time¿too bad it was our last full day in the lovely country. Puerto Viejo is a serious paradise, complete with white-sand beaches, monkeys frolicking in the trees, and ridiculous weather. We all had a lot of fun on the beach that day, surfing and playing with sand crabs and banana leaves¿a true day in paradise.

All good things eventually come to an end sometime, and we had to catch our flight the next morning out of San José, so it was time to head back.

We had an amazing trip. If you get a chance go on a vacation in Costa Rica, do it¿it’s worth the experience and the cost.

We definitely want to thank Ernesto from La Isla Distribution for hooking everything up and baby-sitting us for a week. Also, thanks to all the sponsors that made the trip happen: Ezekiel Clothing; La Isla Distribution; Colgate (and all the beautiful Colgate Girls); Best Western; Dos Piños; Rodrigo at Tico Skate Shop in San José; and Frederico, Simone, and Randal at Chepesent Skatepark.

s); Best Western; Dos Piños; Rodrigo at Tico Skate Shop in San José; and Frederico, Simone, and Randal at Chepesent Skatepark.